Today the Social Security Administration released data showing the most popular American baby names of 2014. Emma and Noah were first on the list, but a closer look at the top 1000 for each gender clearly reveals an emerging trend: adverb names.
At the apex of the Isabella-Jacob boom in 2011 and 2012, some observers predicted that adjective names were ascendant and would soon replace those from Twilight as the nation’s trendiest. But a few years later, there’s only one adjective for names like Blue Ivy and Sunny: passé. According to the SSA data, adverbs, not adjectives, have quickly emerged as the go-to for modish moms and faddish fathers; over thirty adverbs are suddenly in the top 1000.
For girls, these include Mercifully, Gorgeously, Kindly, and Always. On the boys list, Ruggedly, Seldom, Stoutly, and Sharply all cracked the top 200. There are also a handful of adverb names that made the top 1000 for both genders, a feat unequaled by names of any other part of speech. These include Swiftly, Quickly, Often, Perfectly, Suddenly, and Piously, among others. Freely was the most popular adverb name of all in 2014, placing in the top 100 for both boys and girls, and finishing in the top ten for both genders in most southern states.
Experts attribute the precipitous rise in adverb names to multiple factors. Most notably, adverbs offer a welcome escape from the dictates of gender normativity. For open-minded Millennial parents especially, adverbs give their sons and daughters a chance to buck social construction and define themselves on their own terms. The hope is that in twenty or thirty years, prospective employers won’t see a man or a woman applying for a job, but an independent personality with a vivid name to match.
In addition to their appealing gender versatility and their originality, adverbs are also capitalizing on the long-standing popularity of names ending in an -ly sound. Where three years ago, Hadleys, Finleys, and Radleys were filling nurseries, today you see as many Earnestlys and Ornatelys as you do Johns and Marys. And, in a sign that traditionally spelled adverb names may have already lost their edge, several alternate spellings finished just outside the top 1000 this year, including Khleverly, Swiftleigh, and DaVigorously.